My verdict for this western remake, someone needs to write its name in Ryuk’s infamous Death Note (Warning: Mild spoilers)
Death Note (2017) Synopsis
High school student Light Turner encounters a strange notebook and discovers to his horror that it grants him the ability to kill anyone. After speaking with Death God Ryuk, the supposed original owner of the notebook, Light concludes he now has the ability to change the world and proceeds to do so after recruiting girlfriend Mia Sutton into his schemes. As criminals begin dying in inexplicable ways worldwide, the public starts to worship Light’s persona i.e. the serial killer Kira, seeing him as a world saviour. Light’s mass killings eventually draws the attention of L, a world-famous genius detective. After correctly pinpointing Light’s location, L corners Light into a confrontation, by forcing him to decide between remaining in hiding or killing his own father.
You’d realise from reading my visual summary above that I’m heavily comparing Death Note (2017) to the two Japanese live-action adaptations in the mid-2000s. I know this is unfair, given it’s more than a decade since the first adaptation.
Yet, had it not been for those two movies, would the strange story of Death Note achieve worldwide popularity? Would Netflix even consider remaking these movies, had they not been so phenomenally successful?
What I’m saying is, to review Death Note (2017), it is impossible not to measure it against its predecessors. The very nature of the remake demands this to be done.
Here where I think Death Note (2017) failed at. It tries too hard to be its own man in a game that is impossible to do so. The macabre nature of the notebooks aside, the entirety of the original tale stands on the nail-biting battles of wits between Light and L. By omitting these, the sheer life of the story is lost.
To be fair, not all confrontations are discarded, but the flimsy execution of what remains still resulted in nothing being memorable. One just doesn’t sense the intense competition of character and worldview so pervasive and so attractive in both Japanese versions.
At the same time, the personality tweaks to Light and L are baffling, to say the least. None of these made the two protagonists more accessible. In some cases, they even contradict what was left untouched.
In particular, I truly hated what was done with L towards the ending, which altogether felt so unnecessary. Perhaps the writers were reiterating that anyone could succumb to the phenomenal power of the notebooks. But frankly, this could only work had this version of L been more skillfully depicted. The outcome of the character change borders on pedestrian too.
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